Would you want to work with your partner? Many people in business do, but in sport there are very few who work together and even less who actually
make a good team and get on.
Golf is a sport where you can get upset with your own shadow if it’s not going well - so imagine your partner being on the course day in and day out
with you. The first player in 101 years to win the Ladies South African Open title three times, 6 times tour winner Ashleigh Simon and her partner
David Buhai, her caddie, spent time with me chatting about how things work for them on tour.
It was quite clear in the conversation that as with all athletes and sportswomen there are good days and bad days - and in the same way, so with relationships.
I appreciated the openness and honesty with which they spoke. The thing that was interesting for me was that first, they recognised the potential
challenges inherent in working together but more importantly, they worked with the ups and downs, as well as with each other’s character traits.
At no point in the conversation was there talk about wanting to change the other person, to the contrary: they both wanted the best for each other
and accepted the way the other is and work with it to bring out the best in each other. As Ashleigh commented about Dave, “...no one knows me better.”
She realises this and recognises that part of what Dave does is help her to be the best she can be, as she is.
Away from the course they have found a rhythm of time together and time apart, as well as seeing friends, family etc. and they both agreed that this
is part of what has been good for them. As Dave says, “….often we go play pool, watch sport and do our own thing. It’s not something we
talk about a lot,it just works, we know.” This has created balance and has ensured that they aren’t in each others’ pockets all the time - and
more importantly, both of them are happy to let the other person to be an individual and have their own space. This seems to mean that when they
are back together on the road for two to three months at a time, then the partnership works.
Another stand-out thing in the conversation was that Ashleigh values and respects Dave’s input as well as the support he gives her around the course.
He isn’t just her caddie, he is there to judge where she is at and give her the support that she needs best in that moment. As Dave comments, “I
know her emotions and where she is at. I find ways to take her mind off it with random things or humour, it breaks the ice.” Ashleigh readily admits
that on the course she sometimes realises it and sometimes doesn’t, but it is of great benefit to her and she notices the impact when, on the odd
occasion, Dave is unable to be with her.
But the fascinating part of this is that they both know their roles and place on the course and it’s this definition and boundary that seems to be
a large part of why their professional relationship works. Dave explained the perspective needed in a professional relationship and why it often
doesn’t work. “If you are going to do it, you need to dedicate yourself to it. A lot (sic) think it’s easy, but you need to take a step back. She
is the player at the end of the day.”
By the same token Ashleigh recognises and agrees with this, but doesn’t use it in a ‘one up way’. Instead, she says “….this is our 5th year
together as player/caddie and no one knows me better. On the course I need to play.” This surely is the key? Both Ashleigh and Dave are able to
separate business and relationship and there are no ego’s - and as a result there is balance in their partnership.
Once off the course there is seldom, if ever, talk of golf and they are once again simply a couple. It is this ability to switch between a work role
for both of them, where neither takes things personally, while at the same time being partners off the course, that seems to be their success.
Ashleigh and Dave seem to have found the balance between work and home life by acknowledging each others’ roles and being able to leave the work on
the course and not making things personal, but supporting each other for who they are. It was great to spend time with them, listening to how they
make their partnership work so successfully and gain such a personal insight into their lives.